10 Years Chemo-Free
They say that a blog can be therapeutic, and a great way to process raw feelings and emotions. Well, this is one of those posts. At least I gave you a heads up. Sorry, no baby photos or poop jokes today. Maybe next time.
On this cancer journey, several of us have special milestone days each year that take us back to when we were in the midst of our fight. Here are a few of mine:
- January 23 – the day I was diagnosed, how long I’ve been fighting this bad boy cancer.
- The two weeks between January 23 – Feb 2 – it’s like this shadow hangs over me these weeks as I remember the journey from being diagnosed, to finding doctors, to finally having my first major surgery.
- June 9 – my new date I have to go off to consider myself “cancer free.” I’m at 2 years.
- July 24 – my original “survivor day” that my family and I celebrated on the glorious day I was released from cancer treatments and finished with chemo all together!
I know it’s a lot, it is for me too. But these are my special cancer days that I remember each year. I don’t do big celebrations or even really recognize them all each year (although my husband typically does, bless his heart) but as each one of these days comes, it’s a time for me to reflect – or as it has been in the past, push away the rush of emotions that come with the reality of this cancer game.
Today is one of the days along my journey that always means something special to me, July 24. I hope I never forget what it was like to walk into my oncologist’s office 10 years ago. I was supposed to have a treatment, one of my last. They drew my blood and saw that I was absolutely too weak to take the next chemo treatment. My white blood counts were way too low. Six months of chemo and a month of radiation had been enough. Instead of heading for the chemo room, I got to go into the physician’s room where he explained that I was done, I didn’t have to finish my remaining two treatments, and that I was released from treatment.
While I walked in there without any strength, I nearly floated out of the office. Finally after several months of living through one of the horrors that comes on this side of heaven, at age 17 nonetheless, I was free. My parents took me to Eskews Fine Jewelry to get a watch – and had it engraved “SURVIVOR” and the date, 7-24-01. I still wear it every year on this day. We went out to dinner at Gojos to celebrate. It was a huge day for me.
Just like the Sunday morning earlier this year on January 23, I had a rush of emotions come over me this morning. It’s funny because during the first years of being in remission, I don’t think I really had it all sink in yet. I would be so excited to reach my cancer mile-markers, and just be pumped to celebrate. I even made a homemade t-shirt and wore it for a few years. I was on cloud nine.
Maybe it’s because my cancer HAS come back once that I find it hard to joyously celebrate now, or maybe it’s because I’m older, I’m married, I have a kiddo – and the actuality of what I went through has just begun to hit me. But instead of breaking out my old shirt today and sporting the town with it – proudly showing I am a survivor – I had to make myself get out of bed, go through my typical Sunday routine and not break down bawling along the way. God bless my friends and family who showed up with flowers today, and my hubby who splurged on delicious cupcakes. He knows the way to my heart.
Although I hate that I feel like crying rather than celebrating as each one of my “Year 10” mile markers has come, I actually think it’s a good thing. Last year when I went through counseling, I learned that instead of processing my emotions, I’ve developed a pattern to unplug from them and disconnect with how I really feel. I’ve slowly started to “plug back in” throughout the year, and the raw emotions of fear, sadness, grief, loss and more have rushed in as I’ve dealt with the cancer face-to-face.While it’s not been fun, it is nice to actually feel again and get real with what I’ve faced throughout the years.
So, today hits 10 years for me that I’ve been “chemo-free” and my original Survivor Day. And while I’ve got a train of emotions hitting me, I’m so, so grateful for them. Not only am I grateful for the ability to feel the emotions, but for life and how God is using my story even 10 years later. I could have easily not made it 10 years ago. But He chose to heal me so that His glory would be made known through me and my story. Why that’s not been the case for everyone who has faced this disease, I don’t understand – but I have faith that it’s all for a reason, and I will continue to point people to hope as long as I’m still here. As hard as it is to face the fears, side effects and impacts that surviving cancer so young has had – I absolutely feel blessed to be part of the bigger picture and do my part in pointing people upwards to Him.
So on that note, a huge “hurray” that I’ve been off the chemo for 10 years now. A huge thank you to everyone who has prayed for me, supported us and walked with us through this journey over the years. I can only pray that there are many more days full of flowers and cupcakes ahead.